Embrace Distractions:

They’re going to happen.  This is a fact that I tried to ignore and pretend didn’t exist.  I was determined to fight against any and all distractions by readying myself with battle armor and defending the walls of our home school.  Distractions are far more powerful than anything I have to use in defense.  It took an epic battle where I crumbled to the ground in complete and utter defeat before I grasped and completely accepted this concept.

In the Land of Embracing Distractions, I use them to my advantage.  My parents have quite a bit of construction going on around their house right now to take care of drainage problems before it destroys their house.  It has been going on…for weeks.  (Okay, months…but who’s counting?)  Pre-Epic Battle, I would take the kids to the library.  This was short lived.  It was difficult to talk to the kids without distracting others around us trying to quietly do their homework.  I was pretty much limited to workbooks or reading which was a point of possible civil war for us anyway.  I also couldn’t use my normal “get the wiggles out” tricks in the library which eventually led to a nuclear meltdown for all four children.

Okay…so what was I going to do?  People are constantly walking through the entire house.  Tractors, workers, and machines of all sorts are directly outside the large picture windows lining the wall of our “classroom”.  Beeping, shouts, jack hammers, and loud noises start at 7am and end around 7pm.  I’m supposed to embrace this?!  Really?!  But…that’s exactly what I did.

“Okay boys…we’re going to make our own books.”  A piece of construction paper and several pieces of computer paper are folded in half and held together with two simple staples.  The boys are not at the point where they have the patience to write and illustrate a story completely on their own.  So, I provided a sentence starter on each page allowing each boy to choose how to complete it themselves.  (Ahhh…spelling in disguise.)  The boys read the sentence starters to me before they begin making their book and then they read the completed story to me when they’re all done.  (Reading.)  Then they illustrate each of their pages.  (Fine motor skills practice and handwriting.  Two with one stone!)

The title of Chris’ book was “They are Building a ____________”.

There are many men on the ground.

After Chris read his story to me, I asked him about this page, “Why are all the men on the ground?”  He casually told me with a concerned look on his face as if I had not been paying attention at all to the comings and goings of the backyard, “They take lots of breaks.”  Hahahaha…he should know, he’s been watching them as he does his school work.

Everything is a teachable moment:

“When are we going to swim lessons?”   A few minutes later, “How much longer until swim lessons?”  Okay…it’s time for a lesson in telling time.  Yes, we already completed all the worksheets concerning telling time but that did nothing to teach them how to figure out on their own how much time they had left between the moment they woke up and the moment we walked out the door to go to swim lessons.  My sanity was at stake here.  My mom even joined in on the lessons since I stopped telling the boys the answer and told them to figure it out on the clock which led them to asking grandma instead.  Both of us spent days (over a couple of weeks) reviewing with them how to figure out how much time was left until swim lessons.

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One of my children inevitably asks me each evening, “Mom, can I help you make dinner?”  Inside, I want to cackle in laughter (mwahahahahaha) because they are about to get a school lesson in disguise and will love every second of it.

“Absolutely.  Pull out a 1/4 measuring cup.”  This is my favorite measuring cup because I can teach so much with it.  “I need 1 cup of chicken broth.  How many times do you need to fill up that measuring cup to make 1 cup?”  My kids will tell you, from experience, that I almost always pull out the smallest measuring cup or spoon and have them do the math for whatever they need to scoop or pour.  Poor Mr. 1 cup and Mrs. 1 tbs.  They have been left forgotten for a very long time now.

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Currently, I have Niki reading books on molecular gastronomy and our science lab is the kitchen…and then we eat it!  Our meals are varied and in depth some days.  Other days, they’re simple and quick.  But even on our simple days, I’m still thinking about what I can do to teach a concept or skill to them.  For example, peanut butter on rice cakes.  Simple, right?  Yep.  But the twist are the raisins.  I have them make faces on their sandwich with them.  There’s those fine motor skills practice sneaking in again.  I also save the chopsticks connectors you get with the kids’ drink at PeiWei and get chopsticks for the kids to use at home.  Do you know how much control you have to have even with the connectors to use chopsticks?  A lot.  Hey…I was taking some of my kids to occupational therapists for fine motor skills practice.  I want to spend less time at the therapists office and more time at home.  Therefore therapy is integrated into our day otherwise my kids would never have any time to just play.

Just Stop:

Leave or stop on a high note.  This became our motto during the foster care years and has carried over to today.  It’s not worth letting your child going into meltdown (aka tantrum) mode over something you know will trigger it.  I’m not saying give into their every whim.  Not. at. all.  They have to learn perseverance in some cases.  Right before you know they’re going to lose it (you learn that pivotal point as a parent), wrap it up and leave or stop.  This way everyone keeps the experience as a happy memory instead of a dreaded one.  Our experience with our six kids has shown that they will last longer with time but a great big helping of patience has to be acquired by mom and dad first.

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We travel cross country quite a bit.  We do it enough that after about the first hour of the drive, I’m ready to be done with it.  Ideally I’d love to drive with as few stops as possible and just get the whole thing over with.  But…I’ve learned time and again that the journey is where all the learning takes place – including a road trip.  I’ll stop at many of the quirky (but hopefully educational in some fashion) stops along side of the highway to let the kids stretch their legs and refill my patience tank.  We’ve stopped at caves, antique covered bridges, historical figure statues, volcanoes, ancient Indian villages, and so much more.  It’s always worth the extra 30 minutes – 2 hours.  Every time.

Patience Reality Check:

Yes, I thought I had a lot of patience.  I thought I had patience to spare.  Then my children took off my rose colored glasses and showed me reality.  One of my favorite lines in “Beginning to Pray” by Anthony Bloom is that the author tells us via a story that God does not grant patience to us everytime we pray for it.  (Do we give our children everything they want when they want it?)  God provides opportunities for us to learn patience.  This had a HUGE impact on me.

I’d like to think that my patience level has increased over the last several years but I’m hesitant to say this in fear that my children will reveal that I took off the clear lens glasses they gifted me and  show me that I replaced them with the rose colored ones again when they weren’t looking.